Before the masses even knew about the world of rock climbing, Patagonia ambassador Lynn Hill was a pioneer. She revolutionized the way people ascended mountains, and the notion of who could go up them, demanding equal pay and treatment for females in the field. With a background in gymnastics, her graceful style is that of a dancer gliding up surfaces unthinkable by men and women alike.
In 1993, she was the first to free climb—without ropes or other equipment—The Nose on El Capitan, Yosemite, California—one of the most important achievements ever in the sport. The next year she followed up that feat by climbing it again—in less than 24 hours. At 52, she’s considered one of the best climbers of all time, she's still inspiring us to tackle any challenge, vertically or otherwise. Below are the six life lessons we learned from the avid adventurer.
Less is more
"Climbers of my generation seemed to be more interested in having the freedom to go rock climbing, as opposed to spending most of their time working. We preferred living on less money so that we could spend more time having fun. But the modern climber has a lot more need for 'stuff' than we ever did. You see fancy SUVs, people constantly using their iPhones, and sometimes they even use a GPS to get directions to the route they want to climb. Today it's totally different than when I first started climbing."
Collaboration is key
"Contrary to what some people might think, climbing requires a team effort. In my formative days as a climber in California, I was part of a group of climbers known as the, 'Stonemasters.' I found a similar group of climbers pushing the level of free climbing in the Gunks [in New York]. My friends knew which routes had been done and where there were potential new routes to try. They would say, 'Hey, this climb over here hasn't been done, let's check it out.' So we worked together as a team and established many new routes. One person would go up, and if they fell off, they would be lowered back down to the ground, leaving the rope in place for the next person. This approach called, yo-yo style, allowed us to work together and share in the process of establishing new routes on poorly protected faces. I wasn’t particularly looking for death-defying challenges, but sometimes it just ended up that way."
Equality for women is still an uphill battle
"Ever since I was a child, I learned to question old ways of thinking that are clearly unfair—especially with regard to gender issues. Though things have improved significantly for women, we still struggle. In some ways, we may have even lost ground compared to when I was a kid. Today women are expected to have a job or career AND take care of the children and household duties, yet we are still paid significantly less than men. According to recent statistics, a woman only makes 70 percent of what a man makes in the same job. As a climber, I had to fight for equal prize money for things like the Survival of the Fittest competition. [Men] were getting $15,000 for prize money; we were getting $5,000. I said, 'Wait a minute. This is not fair.' So we got together and told the producer and he said, 'We can't change the prize money this year but we promise to raise the prize money for the women next year.' They did increase the prize money the following year, but the women still made less than the men because we competed in fewer events."
Following your passions will always win out
"It’s important to remind young kids to follow their passions and dreams rather than following the trend toward consumerism and conformism. That's really in essence what my image stands for: non-conventional, outside-the-box thinking and the importance of following our passions in life."
Always trust your instincts
"When attempting a difficult climb, I try to maintain a calm and confident state of mind. I trust my sense of intuition instead of second-guess my first instincts. If I’m feeling nervous or insecure, I’m more likely to be distracted by negative thoughts during crucial moments of difficulty. If I think to myself, 'Oh, this feels hard, I might fall here!' I’m more likely to fall. I call this the mental shift, which means instead of going into panic-mode, I simply acknowledge the distraction and shift my focus to finding the best solution at that moment. Developing these mental skills requires a lot of practice."
Nature is the best form of therapy
"It seems that with all of the demands of modern life, many people don’t take enough time to simply hang out and enjoy the peace and beauty of nature. Just being outside can be therapeutic since it allows me a chance to connect with myself, my friends, and with the natural environment."
Want to practice some of Lynn Hill's life lessons? Click here to add "simplifying your life" to your To-Do list.